Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Remembering - Blaze

As the 20th Century came to a close magazine stands were literally littered with magazines devoted to Hip-Hop.  Obviously The Source and XXL were around, but so were Vibe, Rap Pages, ego trip, Rap Sheet.

Man, how times have changed.

But my favorite Hip-Hop magazine from that era was Blaze, and eleven years ago this month, it's final issue came out.

Now Blaze was everything I ever wanted from a magazine devoted to Hip-Hop; it had a distinct voice and a sense of humor.  It was innovative.  It knew when to be funny and when to go hard.  Basically, it was a magazine that not only covered Hip-Hop, but seemed to emulate it.

I loved how every issue started with "The Furious 5", which were five lists of five on a variety of topics.  Sometimes they were controversial and some times they were tongue in cheek.

Another column that I loved was "All Samples Cleared."  Every month featured a different frequently sampled song.  They'd cover it's origins and speak with the artists who made it.  Then they'd list some of the songs that sampled it.

"Stop Watch" literally offed up a snapshot into a private moment for an artist.  And it was an annotated snapshot too.

The music reviews were equally dope.  "Vinyl Exams" were the album reviews and had a rating system composed of avatars of a different MC or DJ every month.  The single reviews were called "Deez Cuts" and offered up a panel of experts (MCs, Producers, DJs) to give their thoughts on the songs in question.

Another aspect of Blaze that I really appreciated was teh lack of cursing.  Whenever a curse appeared in print, it was distorted or scratched out.  It almost looked redacted.  It was a pretty cool effect.

And every issue ended with "Rewind," in which an artist recounted a moment or a time in their life in the first person.

I also loved the covers.  In fact that Jay-Z cover is one of my favorite magazine covers of all time.

Despite it's short life span, Blaze did have some impact on the culture. The February 1999 issue listed "The 50 Greatest MC's Ever" which spawned tons of discussion.  Blaze created the Blaze Battle, in which MC's tested their mettle against each other with freestyles and battle rhymes.

Blaze folded because it never really found it's audience.  The Source was the established and reigning king, while XXL was the feisty upstart.  Blaze was looked at (and treated like) Vibe's unwanted sibling.

Still, out of all of the Hip-Hop magazines on that stands back then, Blaze was the one that looked forward to the most and it's the only one I still miss to this day

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